Students at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) have been tackling the challenge of food waste by introducing their campus community to 'upcycling', aimed at raising awareness by using the school cafeteria to stage sustainable solutions.
The project has been launched by the GU-Q Sustainability Club through a collaboration with Qatar Upcycling & Biodegradables Enterprise (QUBE), an environmental technologies company that offers on-site mobile units that turn food waste into compost.
"Upcycling is the process of transforming waste into new materials of better quality or use," explained Salma Hassan, president of the Sustainability Club.
Upcycling should not be confused with recycling, she cautioned. At GU-Q, she noted that having the machine on campus “sparked important conversations within students and staff on the importance of reducing our consumption as well as finding solutions for our food waste.”
Food waste is a huge concern for Qatar, with studies showing that over half of the nation’s garbage is composed of food waste, according to a GU-Q statement. This is particularly critical for a country that imports so much of its food resources.
For nine days, club members volunteered their time to collect food waste from the cafeteria to deposit into the QUBE machine, which turned the food waste into soil in just 24 hours, reducing food waste by 90%. Throughout the duration of the collaboration, 223kg of food waste was converted into nutrient rich soil that was used to feed plants on the grounds of the university.
Nodoka Nakamichi, co-founder and director for Marketing and Public Relations of QUBE said, “This was a great collaboration which allowed us to work together with GU-Q students who were eager to learn about the machine and upcycling. We felt that an awareness regarding reducing carbon footprint through composting was raised.” The Education City community was also invited to participate and to support the initiative by visiting GU-Q to see the machine in action.
The collaboration is in line with GU-Q’s commitment to food security and environmental sustainability, which was also demonstrated through the university’s pioneering research on food waste in Qatar under the 3-year SAFE-Q project (NPRP 7-1103-5-156) funded by the Qatar National Research Fund.